(This is the first piece of writing that has left me pacing around the house, dropping coffee and stepping on the dogs in years. I am proud of this piece.)
She was way too happy to meet me, so, I was suspicious. At the time, six years ago, she had very short bright blonde hair. A smile from a toothpaste commercial and a long lean figure that she always wore preppy polos and soft cardigans over. Her shoes were always nice and her jeans never dragged on the ground.
Surely we had nothing in common.
The excitement she had for me to call her every time I ran into her was unnerving. Why a girl like that wanted to be friends with a person like me was perplexing and terrifying. Some time passed. We became friends, mostly because we both found ourselves having puppies at the same time, which neither of us had a clue how to care for. I think the fear that the animals we were responsible for would somehow turn into cheeseburgers (or worse) was our first bond.
We started going to dog parks together. Together we befriended the resident crazies with 12 animals, the beautiful artist whose miniature dachshund did the best tricks, and the happy couple with the fat twin corgis. Mostly we laughed at how much we could learn about human social structure just by watching all of the dogs.
Candice is from Eugene, Oregon. Oregon is a place I am often told “I belong in” and “I would love.” Where all of the strippers have good tattoos and dreads and people walk around to do stuff or even just because they like walking, even if it’s raining.
On a trip she took there she came back with a box of little things for me. Tiny blown glass animals. An Oregon ducks t-shirt, little handmade candle holders that said “just wait until you shine your light on the whole world.” I remember spreading all of the little trinkets and magnets out on the table and just marveling at them. “She is sharing herself with you. That is what friends do.” Someone told me.
Candice’s family has always seemed luxurious to me. Like a kind of old quality that isn’t made any more. Her parents resembled famous old Hollywood. I’ve told her often that she has the best looking Mom and Dad I’ve ever seen. Her sister is equally as glamorous, she knows a lot of people and likely always has the perfect dress for whatever the occasion. She is a detailed and thoughtful entertainer, she works extremely hard, and no matter what, she has her sister’s back.
Candice’s 2 year older than her big brother. Her other sibling that always, no matter what, was on her side.
I met him for the first time late last year while celebrating Candice’s birthday. We went to dinner and a movie. She had always told me about him and he was as expected – charming, doting over his sister for her birthday, well dressed and ageless. Casey could have been 59, 7, 98 or 21. He was profoundly charming in an instantly loveable way. Like his jacket was extremely nice and all of his hair was in place but he was absolutely ecstatic that Game of Thrones 2 was sold out and the only movie available was Star Wars, which he had already seen, twice, but who cared. To top it off he got a collectors ticket with the ticket. He marveled with us before the show that he loved Star Wars so much. He was so attached to all of the characters because he was the perfect age where he grew up with them. He didn’t bat an eye as we walked out and I replied that life after death on Earth is probably exactly like Star Wars and that’s why humans love it so much. He just bit his lip and nodded enthusiastically, no simple task, as we’d had our heads cranked back for the duration in the very front row of the most big screen sensory overload I had ever experienced. I had worn a tiny unicorn finger puppet Candice had given me on my finger. He got a kick out of that.
Casey was the sort to be wildly alive. His eyes were sparkly, dancing as he had his hands in a prayer position just under his chin, a huge smile as he watched Candice open her birthday presents at dinner. Him and his sister got her a spa day and night in a hotel and uggs. He loved everything. He loved the food at the restaurant, marveling at every course, debating forever exactly what to get and how. He had a great time describing with wonder the massive wedge of carrot cake and insisting everyone at the table try some and as a long time former fine dining server myself, he had the best, most considerate and kind manners to anyone that came within feet of his space.
There were many laughs that night at the recent debut of his “Christmas Tuxedo” at that years Christmas. A perfectly fitted suit in the pattern of tacky red, green and white Christmas paper. “Perfect attire for eating cookies and drinking egg nog under a multi-colored glow.” He had said.
Casey could hold space in a room that way, a multi-colored glow himself. Slight humor, ageless grace, and a shy but unapologetic vulnerability. He was a beautiful man with the kind of magic you can only describe as ecstatic over an ironically terrible Christmas paper print suit. Debonair to the point of posh and unapproachable until you witness him finding out that he received collector edition star wars tickets. A divine child after all. Asking you if you want any snacks, any ice cream, any soda, if there is anything at all that you need. Yes yes come to Oregon. Bring your rain boots. Come and see us. We’ll show you everything. A few hours after we said goodbye he sent me a facebook friend request. Unlike most people he always liked AND replied to most things that were put up or said. Casey loved people, often at a distance. Their little life victories excited him and he was sporadic in his expression of that.
Most people get really addicted to trying to find a sense of belonging or a feeling that they are cared for, seen and understood anyway. In the short time that we met, I can say Casey is one of those very special people that, effortlessly does that for others. He has a gigantic spirit that has touched the hearts of many. My ability to feel so connected to him as I write this is proof of the amount of lives he touched. Casey is glamorous and wise but relatable in a way that drew people in. But, thoughtful with a wild fun streak that makes others feel important and wanted. He was one of those people that could provide others with those gifts so subtly and effortlessly. At the time I had left thinking “What a beautiful and fun man”. Later, when it was really considered, I uncovered the depths of the magic and wonder that being able to meet him, though briefly, left as an imprint on my memory.
I hope his spirit comes back to visit me and give me some reports on if Yoda is really out there or if it was all just a hoax, If the movie screens are bigger in heaven, if the carrot cake is better, what kind of shoe collection he gets to pick from, where the people that tip under 20% really go, and if life beyond here is like the forest moon of Endor. Casey’s spirit is vivid and bright but delicate in its power, like a subtle watercolor painting that just magnetises you and makes the world seem a great deal better.
To the Wilson family and everyone else that loved Casey and that Casey loved so much, a deep bow of grace and gratitude for having allowed me to meet your son and brother, partner and best friend. The fun that Casey got to have within the relationships with the people he loved so much are likely one of his greatest accomplishments in his short life. So please never be so sad that you forget to get all dressed up to go sit for a fabulous dinner. Order dessert twice. Love everything. Marvel. Make others feel like they belong. Be super nice to the waiter. Over tip. Care for each other the way that he cared for everyone around him. Allow yourself to be dazzled by tiny life victories. Wear something ridiculous for a holiday. Never allow his magic to fade in order for him to always stay close to you and in turn honor him by remaining close to each other.